The Arizona Coyotes Will Be Better Next Season

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Rick Tocchet
Rick Tocchet behind the Arizona Coyotes bench during the third period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on January 22, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Islanders 3-2 in overtime.
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The Arizona Coyotes results this season has been lackluster, to be polite. Currently sitting in 29th place in the NHL, the team that finished 28th last season was supposed to see great improvement. Bringing in the starter of the future and a number one center in Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan, along with other NHL talents such as Jason Demers and Niklas Hjalmarsson, it is easy to see why this team was expected to improve. Alas, they sit near the bottom again. However, things don’t look so bleak for the Coyotes going forward. Let’s take a look at why the Arizona Coyotes results are bound to improve.

Arizona Coyotes Results, Due For A Change

Goaltending From Antti Raanta

The biggest move the Coyotes made this past offseason was bringing in starting goaltender Antti Raanta from the New York Rangers. This came in a huge deal, however, Rannta was the most important piece for the Coyotes. With some solid goaltending and the additions up front, this team was said by some to see much improvement. This all went downhill however when Raanta suffered an injury and was placed on injured reserve in late October. With no real backup plan, the teams goaltending spiraled out of control and was some of the worst in the league.

Lately, Raanta has been back and finally healthy and he has been what the Coyotes needed. One of the hottest goalies of the past few months, Raanta has started to show he is indeed capable of being the starting goaltender any team needs. Over the course of the entire year, Antti Raanta ranks fourth in 5v5 Save Percentage among goalies with 1500+ TOI. Since February first, the Coyotes rank ninth in 5v5 Save Percentage. The bulk of the reason why has been because of Raanta and his stellar play.

Many wondered if Raanta could keep putting up the solid results he did in New York as a starter. He is certainly proving he can do that. If the Coyotes could even get league average goaltending all season they would see an improvement in their standings. Raanta should give them at least that, maybe even more.

Young Influence

Another reason the Coyotes should see an improvement next season is that of the age of their lineup. Key guys such as Max Domi, Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak, and Jakob Chychrun will see another year of growth. All of the players mentioned above are also still on entry level contracts and very cost controlled. The Coyotes also have some interesting young guys in their system such as Brayden Burke and Tyler Steenburger. While these guys may not get a full look next season, there is some possibility they could see a few NHL games.

Overall, the Coyotes development of their young core looks promising. Seeing improved results from them, along with the play of guys like Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Derek Stepan and this team should be looking better next season. Keller shattered expectations, with a season that has him on pace for 66 points. You then have a player like Max Domi, who may have been underwhelming this season but is still on pace for 40 points.

Lastly, you have a guy in Dylan Strome who still hasn’t figured it out at the NHL level yet. However, he has been over a point per game in the AHL which is a very promising sign. If they can finally get Strome producing in the NHL it could be a big addition. Add in a potential top pick this offseason who may make an immediate impact and you have a solid young core to work with.

Salary Cap Space

The good thing about having a young core is the cap space that comes with it. The Coyotes are currently dead last in payroll in the NHL and have tons of space to work with. If they actually use that spacer remains to be seen. However, with over $16 million in cap space, they have a lot of interesting options. They will need to re-sign some restricted free agents (RFA) such as Domi, Laurent Dauphin, and Trevor Murphy. They are also tasked with figuring out a new contract for Antti Raanta. He currently makes just $1million this year. This gives them plenty of space to work with.

Now obviously they don’t need to go out and throw a bunch of money at the biggest UFA contracts just because they can. That rarely works for the teams that do it (see the Canucks and Loui Eriksson, Oilers and Milan Lucic) and often the older, bigger UFA contracts may hurt the team in the future. However, there are UFA players that can be signed as middle or bottom six forwards that can help. The other option is doing something like they did last season and trading for players with bigger hits, like Derek Stepan that upgrade the team.

A third option could even help a team out by taking on a bad contract, forcing them to give you another solid piece in return. Whether that be a draft pick or a solid young player, there are many examples in which this worked out wonderfully for a team. Look at the Carolina Hurricanes and how they got Teuvo Teravainen for taking on a poor contract. There are a number of ways to use the cap space to boost the Coyotes results next season.

Coyotes Play Of Late

The last reason the Coyotes results may very well improve is their play of late. As of this writing, the Coyotes are fresh off of beating the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Vegas Golden Knights. They have been solid in 2018 and are slowly starting to creep up the standings. So let’s take a look at their underlying metrics, have they been better or worse?

Since the beginning of 2018, the Coyotes rank 16th in 5v5 CF% and 21st in xGF%. Not stunning by any means, but average. Especially when comparing to the first half of this season. From October to December they ranked 28th in CF% and 31st in xGF%. It is not surprising this team was dead last in the NHL for that time. As the year has gone on and most their players became healthy they started to play much better. This improvement has been helped by guys like Stepan and Niklas Hjalmarsson finding their game again after rough starts to the season.

This recent improvement is a good sign for the Coyotes, who will look to replicate or improve these numbers next season. If these numbers keep up, look for the Arizona Coyotes results to improve as well.

Overall, the Arizona Coyotes results have a lot of reason to be better next season. From goaltending to team play, this team should see improvement. They may not be a cup contender next year, but with a few moves in the offseason or possibly staying the course, the Coyotes may finally be able to escape the NHL basement.

All stats from this article were taken from Corsica.hockey

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